December 04, 1992
Meath Footballer of the Year
One of the unsung heroes of Royal County football
By Colm Keyes
How ironic it is that, in a year after Meath had their shortest championship run for seven years, Colm Coyle should be nominated as the county's player of the year.
Coyle has never been one for conversationalism. He does his own thing regardless of the circumstances. So it was in 1987 that Coyle packed his bags and headed for Chicago just as Meath were on the verge of greatness. Everyone was surprised as Coyle, who was brilliant in the previous year's All-Ireland semi final against Kerry at right half back, was a key figure in Meath's plans for the forthcoming championship.
But he had seen a better way of life in the States and had seized upon it. His mind had been made up. Meath plundered on, took another Leinster title, and were preparing to play Derry in the semi final when Coyle arrived back ... unexpectedly.
That was how he did it, but by then the dye had been cast. Coyle had lost his place in defence to Kevin Foley and it would be damn near impossible to win it back. Such incidents were typical of the youthful Coyle. He did the unexpected and therefore there was always doubts about his place in Sean Boylan's happy family.
As one colleague remarked, "while other players were making great friendships, probably for life, Coyle always seemed to keep his distance. It wasn't that he didn't want to make friends, it's just that he didn't push it. He didn't mind." Such uncertainty affected the contribution Coyle could have made it to Meath back in 1987-88. With Foley established and Terry Ferguson finding a niche at left corner back, the only option was a place in attack, an option that didn't always suit.
And so his real class and potential has never been fully realised. People outside the county always have the impression of Coyle as a bit player within the Meath set-up. But they haven't witnessed his performances at club level where he can be the most effective player in the county on his day.
The award which Coyle received at a function in Navan recently is a sign of a matured player. He won it on the basis of the responsibility he took to lead Seneschalstown to Meath's county final which they threw away to Colm O'Rourke's Skryne. In truth, he was outstanding in almost every game (and there was quite a lot of them!) he played this year.
That's a responsibility which Sean Boylan will hope to utilise as he bids to build Meath back to the strength they once were. "I realise that I will probably finish out my inter county playing career as a half forward," he accepts. With a dearth of scoring forwards who can mix it up front, Coyle is a welcome sight as Meath face some of the toughest defenders in the business during these winter league games. The trust, which seeped away in the mid to late eighties, has returned to his game. Some might not always agree with Coyle's physical style of play but it's the way he has always been.
As a minor he was ebullient and sometimes over-zealous but still had the talent to help Meath to a Leinster title in 1980 when he linked up with future senior players Fino Murtagh and Liam Hayes. Coyle still had a year to go at minor level so it was the commencement of the 1982-83 National Football League when Coyle progressed to the senior team.
He too knew the barren years when attitudes to training bordered on the farcical and club barriers just couldn't be broken down. "Sean Boylan changed all that though. He brought a refreshing approach which made you want to play."
There was disappointment in '84 when he played his heart out but to no avail as All-Ireland champions Dublin stuffed Meath once again in a Leinster Final. By the time Meath did make the breakthrough in '86, the Beauparc man was at his peak.
Regular visits to the states, including the '87 sojourn, didn't help his cause for a permanent place on the team but in the summer of '88 he was again challenging and actually was picked for another Leinster Final clash with Dublin. He lost his place for a semi final with Mayo and sat out the final with Cork but after that drawn match, Meath decided they needed more aggression and Coyle got the call.
He responded with a typically determined display, jostled with opponents, but kept his eye on the ball at all times. A clever performance, but one which landed him in trouble with the authorities as he was summoned to a hearing with Colm O'Rourke and Larry Tompkins. The hearing was swept under the carpet but it wasn't forgotten too easily. Coyle describes his sending off in the Leinster Final for an incident with Keith Barr in 1989 as the worst moment of his career.
That served as a watershed in his career. He hasn't been sent off since. There have been further disappointments. Being taken off in the 1991 All-Ireland Final was one as he could have done a job in a porous defence which Down had ripped apart.
Then there was his sensational dropping early this year for the Laois game which brought to an end Meath's championship aspirations. Again Coyle felt like packing up inter county life. But his performances for Seneschalstown as they advanced to championship, league and Feis Cup finals make him a luxury present day Meath just can't do without.
Such responsibilities on the football field is also reflected in Coyle's career. Having dabbled in various different forms of employment, he now finds himself managing Navan's Trim Road Service Station, owned by Esso.
Coyle's award as the county's top player could have been taken as an act of nepotism. He is married to Meath County Board Chairman Fintan Ginnity's daughter Maire. But it wasn't. There could be no disputing such a simple fact as his accession to the award.
A responsible and mature player. A talent that the die-hards of the Royal County can now actually trust and look to. Now times have changed for Colm Coyle, who truly is one of the unsung heroes of Meath football.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
4th December 1992
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